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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Bear and the Wildcat (The)
by Kazumi Yumoto
Age Range: 6-8
‘One morning Bear was crying. His best friend, a little bird, was dead’. When little bird dies, Bear is inconsolable. Bear makes a beautiful box in which he places his friend. He carries it with him wherever he goes. His animal friends are upset when they discover what is in the box and tell Bear that he must forget the little bird because he is never coming back to life. This makes Bear very sad, and full of grief, he locks himself away in the house. ‘Day and night, he sat in the dark, shut up in his room’. Then one day he opens the window and discovers that the sun is shining and the breeze is scented with grass.
Bear goes for a walk and chances upon a strange wildcat napping on the river bank. The two fall into conversation and then the cat gets out his violin and begins to play. As Bear listens to the beautiful music he remembers all the good times he had with the little bird. Finally, he is able to say goodbye to his friend knowing that he will always have his wonderful memories.
Best known for her young adult fiction, Japanese writer Kazumi Yumoto has written this picture book with such depth and empathy. It is both astute and sensitive dealing with bereavement, loss, loneliness, and depression. It shows that there is a way through Bear’s paralyzing grief while at the same time demonstrating the uplifting story of friendship and new beginnings because finally, Bear meets someone who understands how he feels. The delicate charcoal illustrations by popular Japanese illustrator, Komako Sakai with their different shades of black and hints of pink in some of the pictures towards the end of the book help reflect Bear’s change of mood.
Beautifully translated by Cathy Hirano this moving story can be appreciated by anyone including adults as it reaches out across all age ranges. It will also be an invaluable guide to grieving in picture book form and a valuable resource for parents, carers and teachers to use with young children.